Former workers of Hualon Corp hold up a banner during a protest outside the Ministry of Labor in Taipei yesterday.
The Ministry of Labor should take direct responsibility for recovering workers’ pension obligations during corporate bankruptcies, Hualon Self-Help Association members said yesterday, adding that the partial resolution of the Hualon case should not distract from the need for broader legal reform.
“Rather than celebrating inside ministry doors, ministry officials would be better off working to gain an understanding of institutional problems,” association secretary Hsu Jen-yuan (徐任遠) said. “Right now the ministry is not willing to face the problem of how to institutionalize subrogation for pension benefits.”
Under a deal negotiated by the ministry, banks donated 80 percent of pensions owed to workers by their former employer Hualon Corp from the proceeds banks had collected from the auction of one of Hualon’s factories. Additional payments are to follow from the future sale of a separate factory.
Association members protested what they said is the ministry’s slow pace in resolving their cases, laying symbolic “award” placards for being “deceptive,” “procrastinating” and “slacking off” outside ministry doors.
Association president Lee Tsui-ming (李翠明) said that five members of the organization had passed away since it was founded three years ago, while others had strokes or were diagnosed with cancer.
She called on the government to use a pension insurance fund to directly pay future benefits owed to workers in future bankruptcies, using its authority to recover the funds from the bankrupted corporation.
“This would be much easier to undertake than our workers’ struggle,” she said, adding that it is something that the government should already be doing.
The fund now compensates workers for a maximum of six months of wages and six months of pension benefits.
While workers were grateful for the banks’ willingness to make donations, the resolution was just an individual arrangement by the government and a more institutionalized reform should be implemented to ensure all labor groups benefit, she said.
Lee also called for pension obligations to be prioritized over bank-held corporate debt during bankruptcy proceedings.
Department of Employment Welfare and Retirement retirement division director Lee Chuan-feng (李涓鳳) said that giving pension obligations legal precedence over bank-held debt could put further pressure on firms close to bankruptcy by encouraging banks to cut off liquidity.
The pension insurance fund was only intended as a “supplement” if workers fail to receive full benefits through other means, she said.